“Therefore, the Lord
himself will give you a sign.
Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel”
2020 is the perfect year to celebrate Christmas. Yes, you read that correctly. We may feel like we can’t possibly celebrate because this year has been so chaotic and confusing. But Christmas is supposed to be an annual reminder that our world is not, and has never been, what it is meant to be. This points us year after year to the peace, joy, and hope that are found only in God’s sure promise to make all things new. The same world to whom God promised his Son for centuries, the same world into which Jesus came in the flesh is the same world in which he resides with us today. Jesus came to make all things new, and he is doing just that, even when we cannot see it clearly.
God promised his Son to a dark world.
The promise of Jesus’ birth came at a dark time in history. The northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria), with the help of the greater power Syria, had come to overtake Judah (Isaiah 7:3-7). The prophet Isaiah had come to a fearful King Ahaz to offer comfort and guidance. After God spoke through the prophet and promised that Judah would not fall to these forces (7:7-9), he told Ahaz to ask the LORD for a sign that this promise would hold true (7:10-11). It seemed that Ahaz was being wise and pious when he replied, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test” (7:12). But this displeased the LORD because Ahaz was not trusting God’s ability to guarantee his promise (7:13). The LORD gave a sign anyway, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14).
Ahaz was told that a baby will be born of a virgin and his name will be “God with us” (see Matt. 1:23). What a strange promise in such a dyer circumstance. But the promised child would be the very presence of God in a body, who would bring peace, joy, and hope to all who trust in him. One would think that this story would end on a high note, that everything became clear and that Ahaz trusted completely in the LORD’s promise. But that is not what happened. Ahaz was told that all of Israel and Judah would soon be overtaken by Assyria. In hindsight, the promised Son would not appear for more than 700 years. And the promise of Isaiah 9, that this Son would rule with perfect justice, righteousness, and peace forever is still waiting to be fulfilled (Isa. 9:6-7). Yet, God made his promise to his people in a dark world of chaos and fear.
Jesus came to a dark world.
When Christ came into the world, Israel and Judah had long been under the control of ruthless, foreign powers. It started with Assyria, then Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, and at the time of Jesus’ birth, Rome was in power. Even the Jewish leaders were corrupt. The people of God lived in the dreadful shadow of the Roman empire and were burdened spiritually by hypocritical religious leaders. So, the message that the promised Messiah had finally come, that God himself had come in the flesh, was good news.
But Jesus did not come as the prominent political savior that people expected. He came as a baby and took on flesh to identify with our human brokenness, “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15). He died on the cross, taking the punishment for our rebellion against God. And he rose from the dead, proving that his death was accepted by the Father as a pleasing sacrifice. He ascended into heaven, where he is, at this very moment, advocating for all who trust in him (Rom. 8:34). And he has given his Holy Spirit (the very presence of God) to all who are his as the guarantee that he will return (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:14).
God is with us in a dark world.
The world has not changed much. It is still chaotic and confusing. But this is what makes the Advent season so meaningful. It is a time when God’s people reflect on, remember, and celebrate the LORD’s first coming. And it is a time when we anticipate, with excitement, the promised return of our LORD and Savior. All our hardship is intended to stir in us longing for that day. We can trust that Christ will come again because he came the first time. And we can trust that he will make all things new because he has already begun this work through his death and resurrection. Even now, God’s kingdom is being established and advanced in the hearts of those who believe in him. He will return for all that he laid claim to when he was here the first time!
When we truly understand why Jesus came into our broken world, then we will see clearly that 2020 is the perfect year to celebrate Christmas. It is in the darkest of times that the light of Christ shines brightest. God wants us to trust that he is always good, that he is always in control, and that he is always with us. As we celebrate the good news of Jesus’ during hard times, we bear witness to the reality that God’s promises are true and certain because our confidence in him sustains us, no matter the circumstances.
The message of Christmas can be summed up in one word, Immanuel, “God with us.” This is the promise given to God’s people as we endure political and social chaos. It is the promise that was fulfilled as Christ identified with our humanity and bore our sin to the cross. And it is the promise of God’s presence that all believers enjoy here and now, as we anticipate the full experience when Christ returns for good!
Written by: Jeremy Brown
Posted: December 1, 2020